This weekend the Buffalo Bills will host the Miami Dolphins and it will mark the 100th time the two clubs have faced each other. Many Dolphins fans will be quick to point out that the New York Jets are their most hated rival followed closely by the New England Patriots. While there is no love lost between the Bills and Dolphins, the rivalry has never really been as bitter as against the other two.
Part of that reason could be the 20 game win streak the Dolphins held over the Bills for the entire decade of the 70’s. The Bills wouldn’t break that loss record until 1980 but the Dolphins between 1908-86 would win 11-12 games before yielding the final six contests of the decade. During that six year stretch the Bill ended a 17 year losing streak in Miami. It was 1983. Then rookie QB Dan Marino made his first start for the Dolphins and the game went into overtime. Uwe Von Schamann missed two field goals in overtime.
The end of the 80’s began a far more balanced rivalry for the two clubs. While many games and historical highlights focused on the Dan Marino/NY Jets high scoring contests it was the Bills who did what Miami couldn’t do. Make it to the Super Bowl. The Bills appeared in four straight Super Bowls on the arm of Jim Kelly and the legs of Thurman Thomas. Anchored by one of the best defenses in NFL history. Of course the Bills also have the distinction of being the only team to lose four consecutive Super Bowls as well.
The 20 game win streak, the 17 year losing streak in Miami, the resurgence of the Bills in the 90’s all began to breed a different kind of rivalry. It became ugly.
Trash talking between both teams ran high for many years through the 90’s and into the 2000’s. Dolphins LB Bryan Cox saluted the Bills fans with a two finger wave leaving the field and many Dolphins players commented on how brutal the games had become. Players circled the games on their calendars long before the season ever started. Yet through those years it was the Bills who seemed to have the upper hand. The Dolphins would lose 10 games to the Bills during the 90’s and win 8. The two teams met four times in the playoffs. It was the December 30th game in 1995 however that holds the most significance for the Miami Dolphins.
The Buffalo Bills won on that December day breaking the single game rushing record in the NFL with 341 yards. It would also serve as the final game coached by Don Shula.
After a decade and a half of bitter hatred the Bills and Dolphins rivalry began to wane as both teams began to spiral downward. Focus shifted from the Miami/Buffalo match-ups to the rising New England Patriots and their battles with Indianapolis who had left the division years before. Where talk of Bills vs. Dolphins used to highlight the schedule it became Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning. The Dolphins without Dan Marino and the Bills without Jim Kelly struggled to find franchise QB’s.
Today the rivalry lingers more in the minds of fans than with the players themselves. At least to the degree of what it once was. Miami has maintained their rivalries with the Jets and Patriots but there still is no love lost between the Bills and Dolphins. It’s just not as in your face as it once was. Perhaps the rise of Ryan Tannehill and maybe the future prospect of E.J. Manuel in Buffalo may develop the bitter rivalry once again. This weekend the Bills will try and knock the Dolphins out of the playoffs or at least deal them a critical blow. The games which used to be instant sellouts are no more and this week will mark the first game of the season that is blacked out for the Bills. Something that historically is unheard of between these two clubs.
The Dolphins currently lead the all-time match-up 57-41 with one tie between the two clubs.